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John Heard plays Charles, a sardonic civil servant who can't seem to get over his breakup with Laura (Mary Beth Hurt). While listening to his mother describe how she's thinking of killing herself, Charles begins to reflect on how the relationship started. From there, the movie flashes back and forth between his present obsessiveness and the ups and downs of his two months with Laura. The rambling but entertaining progress of Chilly Scenes of Winter is sprinkled with sharp, satirical portraits of the other people in Charles's life, including his mother (the great B-movie actress, Gloria Grahame), who wallows in her offhand madness, and his roommate, Sam (Peter Riegert), an unemployed womanizer. But the movie's greatest strength is its warts-and-all portrait of Charles himself. He's funny, but his humor often slides into hostility; he's affectionate, but his attentions sometimes turn neurotic and possessive. The movie doesn't condemn him, but it doesn't let him off the hook, either, and Heard's performance manages to be both charming and dismaying. The result is a gentle, sometimes painful, but always honest comedy about the messy details of relationships that has developed a passionate cult following. Chilly Scenes of Winter is based on the novel of the same name by Anne Beattie, who has a cameo as a waitress. --Bret Fetzer
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